Cody Hodgson doesn't begrudge the Vancouver Canucks or head coach Alain Vigneault, but the prospect's career remains in neutral as the NHL team begins training camp in Penticton, B.C., this weekend.
Hodgson, 20, spoke publicly about his back injuries and his relationship with the Canucks for the first time in months, saying he trusted Vancouver's medical staff and doesn't blame Vigneault for some harsh comments - made with incomplete information - at camp last year. The former Canadian world junior star, who underwent a second medical examination Friday, will skate with a group of injured Canucks this weekend, and has yet to be cleared for preseason games, which begin Tuesday.
At camp last year, Hodgson complained of back pain but Canucks doctors could only identify a slightly bulging disc that should not have been too much of a hindrance. That led Vigneault to question whether Hodgson was making excuses for his poor performance.
Seven months later, it was determined that Hodgson was also suffering from a torn back muscle, which has since healed, but he said Vigneault does not owe him an apology, and that his relationship with the organization remains intact.
"Mr. Vigneault calls it the way he sees it, and I'm looking forward to earning his respect this year, and the years that follow," Hodgson said. "He's a great coach for a reason, and we've had many talks. He seems like a good man."
Hodgson is still bothered by the bulging disc, but he has been skating for five weeks and says the injury is making steady progress. Last season, the centre had an excellent chance of making the opening-night roster, whereas this year the competition is stiffer because of Vancouver's improved depth.
"The goal right now is just to become as healthy as possible, and get back to a level where I can play games," Hodgson said. "That should be soon."
Vigneault said Hodgson would skate with eight or nine players and focus on skills before joining regular practice. Vigneault said he would need to begin practising "in the near future," or would start the season with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, Vancouver's farm club.
Hodgson admitted that he lost a year of development in 2009-10, when he played just 24 games with the OHL's Brampton Battalion.
"It was a tough year, and it was a complicated [injury]" he said. "It was tough to get through, but like I said, that's all settled down now. I can't wait to get back on the ice."
Hodgson spent the year reading inspirational books about athletes, such as cyclist Lance Armstrong, and worked out this summer with former Toronto Maple Leaf Gary Roberts, a fitness and nutrition buff. He said Roberts was highly influential in areas such as diet, and that he looked forward to the day when his back ailments were no longer the defining characteristic of his Canucks tenure.
"I don't look back. I don't blame anybody. I just want to get going," he said.